While abroad, the most common question any traveller hears is ‘So, where are you from?’ and I always share the same answer. That I’m from California but I haven’t lived in America in 13 years. When I was living in Europe, half of the time that would be enough but definitely since I’ve been living in Asia I always receive an almost instant, ‘So long! Why don’t you live in the U.S. (and of course, where do you live)?’ Again, I always share the same answer. The lack of gun control, all the plastic surgery and pressure on women to continually look younger and younger, and the lack of basics like socialised healthcare. My list is actually much longer but in the back of a taxi that usually is enough!
Don’t get me wrong. I know there are lots of amazing reasons people dream of living in the U.S., especially California. However, as an adult I’ve lived the longest in Barcelona so it makes sense that I’ve been heavily influenced by that society and feel more European than American now in many ways. I believe that the way European countries are structured to take care of EVERYONE is the correct way for a society to operate. Free healthcare from the moment you’re born and either free or wonderfully affordable university education are two of my favourite ‘rights’ given to all citizens in almost all European countries.
Since I was 21 I have lived in Mexico, then twice in Spain for a combined number of 12 years, India for 3, China for a few months, Hong Kong for a year, and I’ve now been travelling alone in Bali for almost 2 months. These 7 weeks have been amazing but at the same time it has been immensely lonely. Add on top of that the fact that it has been over a year since I’ve been home and, well, I miss my Mommy! So last week I decided to end my solo adventure and head home for a little love and cheer at Christmas time…because sometimes we just need to curl up on the sofa with Mommy for a nice long chat with amazing wine, right?
And then the #SanBernardino Shooting happened!
Although I was born in Los Angeles, Mom moved us when I was 10 and I grew up in Redlands, a quaint town that had a population of 30,000 when we moved there, set amongst the orange groves of southern California at the base of a very pretty mountain range, which happens to be … WAIT FOR IT … in San Bernardino county. In fact, it’s just a few freeway exits away from San Bernardino.
I keep up with what is going on in the U.S. from The Daily Show and The Young Turks so I am quite informed that in 2015 the country has endured at least the equivalent to one mass shooting for every day of the year so far, and averages 35+ firearm-related deaths each DAY. It’s tragic and horrible and something that I never had to fear in any of the countries where I’ve chosen to live. Each of those countries seems to have stricter and more logical laws and rules that protect their citizens and residents from harm.
And I will tell you. It scares the hell out of me.
I’ve had my own reasons for not wanting to live back home. In all fairness, wanderlust and a strong desire to continually experience the ‘new and different’ had always factored heavily into my decision. Now though, I straight up don’t want to live there because I just wouldn’t feel safe. I honestly prefer to live in a country where there is virtually no gun violence – because that’s pretty much all I’ve known as an adult and don’t feel like making ‘being okay with one mass shooting a day’ part of my daily life.
While I’m in Cali for Christmas I’ve already warned Mom that I probably won’t be too keen to head to the mall or to the cinema or anywhere else where mass shootings now seem to occur because who knows when and where the next set of victims will fall tomorrow? It’s terrifying because this is now a daily part of American life. It is a shocking and very sad FACT that there will be a mass shooting tomorrow, and the next day, and the next ….
When I mentioned the San Bernardino shooting to my brother and asked how he feels in the U.S. lately, he said he carries on as usual because he refuses to live in fear, which does seem smart. It’s just such a pity that a conscious decision has to be made for that. I worry about my nieces and nephew in the U.S. and am sad knowing how this strips a bit of their childhood from them. Two live close to San Bernardino and three in Colorado in the same county where the most mass shootings at schools have taken place. Even the youngest children are forced to learn and practice the protocol for what to do if there is a shooting at their school, instead of just learning the fire and earthquake drills like we did when I went to school. I’m sorry but it seems like only countries at war should have to teach their children how to best defend themselves against that type of violence and domestic terrorism.
With 36,945 people killed or injured by guns so far in 2015 (that is 107 per DAY!), the USA is starting to feel less and less like a first-world country and more like a country in civil unrest or at war. Surely those numbers rival the injured and death toll of some wars around the world right now. It’s screwed up on such a massive scale!
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